Empowering Women: Good for Business

When I was born in Taiwan, my grandma commented “such a shame that she is not a boy!” A preference for boys was prevalent at that time—and to some extent continues today. My uncle and aunt gave up on producing a boy only after ending up with five daughters. My aunt would tear up from the talk she overheard from neighbors, accusing her of not being “filial” because she was “unable” to produce a boy. In my parents’ generation, this preference for boys skewed educational opportunity towards males.

Thankfully, I was born a time when the economy was booming, when Taiwan was modernizing rapidly, and when women’s education attainment had become a universal expectation. And so I had the opportunity to explore my own interests and make my own decisions. For extra-curriculars, I traded in the usual “girl” activities of piano lessons and painting to pursue basketball and debating—opportunities that would have been unimaginable for my grandmother, who grew up at a time when the foot binding of girls was still a condoned practice.

In Asia, women’s movements have come a long way in the past three decades. Taiwan’s first female president was sworn in last month – the first female leader in Asia whose path was not paved by a powerful male relative (President Park Geun Hye of South Korea and Daw San Suu Kyi of Burma are both daughters of powerful political dynasties).

Remarkably, Tsai’s primary opponent during much of the presidential election was also a female leader, the Vice Speaker of the Parliament (before she was replaced by her party three months before the election). Analysts believe that a quota system requiring one third of all seats in the legislature be filled by women contributes to the rise of prominent female politicians in Taiwan.

The Philippines has also seen much progress in promoting gender equality over the years. Its outgoing cabinet had the highest percentage of female members in the country’s history. Moreover, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes Sereno, is the first female chief justice in Philippine history. In the most recent presidential election, Leni Robredo was elected as Vice President. Even though Senator Grace Poe lost the presidency, she was leading in the polls for more than three months . Poe emphasized the importance of economic empowerment by urging Filipino women to be financially independent of their husbands during the 8th GoNegosyo Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit in February.

The evidence agrees with Poe. Empowering women economically produces lots of societal benefits, including higher investment in the family, education, and health. Economically empowered women also enjoy stronger awareness of their political rights and face a lower likelihood of becoming victims of domestic violence. Continue reading

Why Girls Matter: Celebrating the International Day of the Girl Child

As today marks the inaugural United Nation’s International Day of Girl Child, a day to promote girls’ human rights, let’s reflect on why it matters to invest in girls.

Study after study has shown that education for girls and women has ripple effects within the family and across societies. Girls who have been educated are more likely to marry later in life, have smaller and healthier families, and have greater job prospects. Continue reading

Gender Equality Matters for Development

Writing in TrustLaw’s The Word on Women blog, CIPE Global Program Officer Anna Nadgrodkiewicz makes a strong case for why gender equality matters for development. In addition to being a matter of basic equity, excluding women in the workplace and in government is bad for economic development, leading to lower output from workers, less productive agriculture, and less spending on the kinds of infrastructure and human capital investments that developing countries desperately need. “Therefore,” she writes, “the persistence of gender inequality must be viewed as negative not only in its own right but also as an economic and social loss that hinders a country’s long-term development prospects.”

But providing equal economic opportunities for women in the workplace may not be enough. Only when more women actively participate in the political and civil spheres can societies reach their full potential.

Read the whole article at TrustLaw’s The Word on Women blog.

Women’s world

(Credit: Alberto Barreto; reprinted with permission, CIPE)

Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, takes on a difficult subject of abuse and other war-induced horrors that women suffered during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s. In a recent reaction to the movie (summed up by “you should see it — but expect to be pounded”) Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor in chief of Atlantic Live, talks about the broader issues it raises: the issues of women’s equality and empowerment around the world.

He emphasizes that much of the world lags behind in terms of equal rights for women in peace time, let alone during war, and that it is our shared responsibility to raise awareness of the barriers wormen face and the burdens they shoulder every day. One way to do so is through images that tell this story. They may come in a form of a film like Jolie’s one. But other ways of conveying the message – such as editorial cartoons – can be highly effective as well. Clemons says, “awareness-wrangling is important elsewhere and political cartoons can generate a viral edginess that inspires and empowers others to insist on equality.”

That is precisely what CIPE’s editorial cartoon contest set out to do. By attracting more than 1,000 entries from around the world in three categories — democracy, corruption, and gender equality – it helped inspire people in different countries to find a common language on the issues of global importance.

In the category of gender equality, Steve Clemons’s favorite is the cartoon featured here. He explains, “The entry pasted above of the world on the back of an old cleaning woman evoked the strongest response from me — and was one of the semifinalists in gender equality. It was done by El Tiempo (Columbia)’s political cartoonist Alberto Barreto. This cartoon, at least in my reading of it, depicts the doubled down abuse that women worldwide endure. First, they are expected to do the tasks many men won’t do, holding the world and countries and their homes and communities together — while nonetheless being looked down upon.”

It is a powerful cartoon indeed and there are many others, chosen by a distinguished panel of CIPE contest’s judges, that you should make sure to see. Follow these links to see the winners in gender equality and the remaining two categories as well as semi-finalists. And spread the word to make a difference.

Global Editorial Cartoon Competition Voting Closed

The online polls for our 2011 Global Editorial Cartoon Competition have now closed. Thank you to the 8,000 of you who voted, and also to the hundreds of talented cartoonists from more than 70 countries who submitted their work.

We are in the process of getting in touch with the winners and plan to announce the final results on or around Wednesday, November 30. Watch this space for more details.

In the meantime, you can see all of our semi-finalists’ cartoons here.